Plagued by production problems and the inflated expectations of the graphic novel source material, 'World War Z' had a lot working against it
Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a retired investigator for the United Nations. He wanted to spend more time with his family in Philadelphia. This is short-lived as on a normal morning drive, chaos ensues out of nowhere in the streets as sprinting maniacs begin biting people and turning them into mindless zombies. The entire planet is affected and nowhere seems to be safe. Gerry acts quickly and gets his family to the temporary serenity of an aircraft carrier in the ocean. This comes at a price, Gerry must lend his talents to find a cure.
This leads our reluctant hero to spots all around the globe as he desperately tries to discover where this all began and how it can be stopped.
First of all, you don't make a PG-13 zombie movie. You just don't do it. The genre demands there be some on-screen violence and almost everything here is either just off-screen or things cut away before you see anything. It's a minor detail in the big scheme of things, but it's further evidence of the studio trying to reach as wide an audience as possible by keeping the rating all-inclusive.
There is an awful lot of travel to major cities around the world to piece together hints about what is really going on. Of course, this is just a reason for our hero to be put into increasingly dangerous scenarios. Otherwise, everyone we care about in this story would be sitting on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean until they starve to death and that doesn't make good cinema.
A few up-close and personal attacks early on set the stage nicely and there is absolutely no time wasted getting into the action. We are also dealing with fast zombies and fast transformations so this is much more action-oriented than interested in developing suspense or real scares.
Let's also talk about some silly moments: like stacking suitcases to deter zombies, riding squeaky bicycles because it's quieter than walking, handling deadly vials of incurable diseases with very little care and an important character who shoots himself in the head literally ten seconds after being handed a gun. There are more, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind. The script has its share of problems and is determined to plow ahead without stopping to worry much about any bumps along the way.
The strongest section of the whole film is the much agonized and much-rewritten climax where things finally slow down and settle in one spot for a little while. Here we explore the potential for suspense and the most 'personal' interaction between the living and undead. There are still some goofy moments, but since the film doesn't really delve into anything other than the superficial problems of a zombie apocalypse (in other words, the usually interesting revelations of human nature when thrust into dire situations) these are the most intimate and involving moments of the whole film.
Pitt is always great but one thing that really stands out here is that for all of the scientists and professionals that surround him, his Gerry is always the first character to notice something is amiss in a scene. No one else sees the zombies climbing over Jerusalem's massive wall? No one else hears the undead going wild in coach (it's always worth the upgrade!)? No one else figures out the secret to outsmarting the zombies?
Special features include: Nothing. There is an extended version of the film that includes additional scenes of violence and gore removed from the conventional/theatrical release for rating purposes.
'World War Z' was certainly made with a lot riding on it. The final product feels very compromised and dumbed down, but it still has some entertainment value, despite itself.
At least it's better than 'I Am Legend.'
Add an extra half star to this review.
Rated PG-13 116 minutes 2013